For six years, the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) has presented the Innovating Justice Challenge, an initiative which aims to “release entrepreneurial energy into developing innovations in the justice sector.” Every year, the most promising innovations receive an Innovating Justice Award and professional support to accelerate their impact.
The challenge, which is open to all countries in the world, has seen a noticeable number of innovations from African countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. A Kenyan innovation, a Prison NFC smartcard which aims to automate prison records in Kenya and Africa by storing information in such cards, is in the lead with over 4,000 votes.
Despite perceptions that justice sector is not one which primarily encourages innovations, the competition challenges these notions. The institute believes that new solutions are needed to promote systemic change in focus areas such as Human Rights in the world. HiiLestimates that about 4 billion people in the world, rich and poor countries alike, do not have access to justice for various reasons.
Justice systems throughout Africa, with underfunded courts and overpopulated prisons, where citizens are either unsure or unable to enforce most of their rights under the law, are rife with irregularities. We have compiled a list of ten entries by Africans that could really make a difference within African justice sectors.
- Prison NFC Smart Card: Automating prison records
Developed by Patrick Muraya Githaiga from Kenya, this innovation intends to automate prison records in Kenya and other parts of Africa. All prison records will be stored and retrieved with an app that reads the information on those cards. With almost 99 prisons and over 56000 prisoners, the innovation aims to integrate the judiciary and the prisons department to offer a digital platform for prisoners to appeal their cases and have court dates set immediately.
Prison NFC Smart Card is used in combination with the NFC tags of each prisoner who will be awarded points for good behaviour in prison. These points will help the President determine which prisoners to release on the prerogative of mercy. Also, the app will be integrated with a banking system where the prisoners can save money from the work they do in prison. Thus when they are released from prison, they have a bit of capital to fund their new lives.
- Citizen Justice Network: Equipping paralegals to become journalists
Developed by Paul McNally, a South African, this innovation aims to investigate and highlight unreported miscarriages of justice in rural South Africa. It will train local activists to compile radio reports and broadcast them on community and national media. It will give a platform to help marginalised communities know their rights and gain better access to public justice services.
This innovation is relevant in South Africa especially and in other countries where people don’t trust the law. The target audience is the poor, and those largely unemployed and desperately in need of more legal information in their home languages, like Sotho and Zulu. When these stories are broadcast, the public will be encouraged to go to the advice centres and get legal help.
- Addressing and mapping children in need of legal services
Developed in Kenya by Patricia Mundia, this innovation caters to children, especially those in remand homes that have been charged with offences and are being tried in court without legal representation despite clear provisions in the law. Most of the children are from poor backgrounds or informal settlements and cannot afford lawyers. There have been multiple instances where children have been tried as adults or in the wrong courts. There are many similar cases which go unresolved as lawyers cannot represent families that cannot afford legal services.
The innovation aims to address the criminal and family justice systems within Kenya by aiding children caught within conflict. By utilising the law and those in need of care and protection, Law Society Kenya aims to provide services to relieve those from poor backgrounds where access to legal representation and psycho-social support is limited.
- SheBold: Empowering women and girls against violence
Developed in Ghana by Alexander Okereke, this innovation is aimed at taming gender-based violence and social injustice against women in Ghana. The innovation provides a platform where cases can be reported to the right authorities via hot-line, text messages (short-codes for help), and smart phone users can take pictures of current situation, record on-going abuse and upload to the platform.
- FraudCracker: Anonymous whistle-blowing solution
Developed by Gavin Symanowitz from South Africa, FraudCracker is a safe online solution for whistle-blowers to report fraud, crime or any unethical activity to appropriate authority figures. The technology seeks to completely protect the whistle-blower’s identity, enable crucial follow-up text conversations with authority figures, allow evidence uploads, and give cash rewards anonymously.
- Rape Report Phone Application and an NGO for Rapid Response.
Developed in Nigeria by Dominica Pilau, this innovation is in response to the prevalence of rape in Nigeria without corresponding punishment of offenders.
Rape victims in Nigeria are stigmatized and ridiculed. This application will enable rape victims or their family and friends report and get help without fear of judgement. The rapid response team will be in charge of reaching out to these victims and offering medical and legal assistance.
- Justice Road-shows: Bringing legal advice to rural areas.
Developed in Morocco by Sofia Rais, this program provides free legal advice and orientation for the benefit of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in rural areas across Morocco. With the help of volunteer attorneys and other legal experts, these road-shows inform citizens of their rights and responsibilities under the law and promote a culture of respect for human rights.
- Law-Paid: The Sustainable Platform Offering Equal Access to Legal Services for All.
Developed in Nigeria, Law Paid is a pre-paid legal service which provides all Nigerians with an opportunity to subscribe by making a one-time payment of an affordable fee to access required legal services all year round for free at their point of need.
This innovation aims to increase the accessibility of legal services to the poor and disadvantaged and remove the barrier, which lack of finance and education installs between citizens and access to legal services.
- Promoting Public Accountability: Mobile technology to bridge the gap between parliamentarians and the electorate.
Developed in Zimbabwe by Benjamin Nyandoro, this innovation aims to promote public accountability through the use of Mobile Phone Technology (MPT). It uses MPT to bridge the engagement gap between MPs and the Electorate. From the very basics such as ‘Know Your Constituency’ or ‘Know Your MP’, users subscribe to engage with the MP through a virtual portal.
- MyRide Africa: Interactive complaints platform for public transport.
Developed in Kenya by Bernard Adongo, the innovation aims to provide solutions to complaints about public transport by building a global, easy-to-use complaints platform that can be accessed from a commuter’s phone. The commuters get to rate the vehicles and feedback is relayed to companies, PSV cooperatives, and owners. If badly driven, poorly maintained and unsafe vehicles generate many complaints, owners should be compelled to either discipline staff or fix the problem.
African public transport is characterised by an informal system that is pervasive across the continent. MyRide Africa’s innovation intends to encourage better road policing to improve safety, comfort and joy of the commuter.
The winner of the Innovating Justice Challenge 2015 receives the Innovating Justice Award 2015 and benefits from an investment of €20,000 to take their innovative idea to the next level.
Source: Hannah Onifade, Ventures Africa